How to Recognize False Teachers (Timothy 14)


(READ 1 Timothy 6:1-5)  They say old people repeat themselves and say the same thing they have already said.  Paul is in the last years of his life when he writes 1 Timothy, and he wrote about the same thing 3 times, but it wasn’t because he forgot he had already talked about it.  It was because it was such an important subject and Timothy really needed to get it right for the house-churches in Ephesus to be healthy, growing churches.  The subject he is bring up over and over is the problem of false teachers and teachings (1:4-17;4:1-5; 6:1-5).

First, Paul clears up a problem between Christian owners and their Christian slaves (6:1-2).  The slaves shouldn’t take advantage of their masters because this would be a bad example and not bring glory to Christ.  The same is true for Christian employees.  They should be the best workers and not take advantage of their master’s kindness.  They must do their best in all things.

Having covered that, Paul again turns to the subject so often on Paul’s mind when he thinks of the troubles in Ephesus: people teaching anything other than what Paul has taught them and what is in the Bible (6:3).  These people are not to be allowed to teach or minister in the church.  That is not just because of the wrong things they say, it is also because of the character of such people who would spread lies.

Outside these people may seem godly and friendly, they may be popular and influential.  Many others may follow them, but inside they are full of sin and deception (6:4-5).  Paul says they are “conceited,” blinded by pride and self-centeredness.  They may claim to know more than others, but really, they “understand nothing” because they are ignorant of God’s real truth.  They like to argue because they have “an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words.”  They enjoy getting in long discussion about minor, unimportant things.  They are full of “envy” – they are jealous of other leaders and want attention for themselves.  They don’t get along with others and have “strife.”  Sins of the tongue are common.  They are known for “malicious talk,” they criticize and gossip, they put others down and judge them.

Doing this causes “constant friction between people.”  Their teachings bring disunity and discord among believers.  Because they have a “corrupt mind” they distort things and don’t think clearly.  They once followed the truth but “have been robbed of the truth” be allowing themselves to believe lies and move into untruth.  In addition, they become greedy and want to make a profit from the ministry. They think that “godliness is a means to financial gain.”  They use Christianity to get ahead in life.  They try to impress others and use their position to get ahead financially.

Jesus also warned about these people:  “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves”  (Matthew 7:15) .  Some may be true believers who have allowed themselves to go astray and turn from the truth, like Balaam (Numbers 22-24).  Others may have appeared to be believers, but never came to a saving knowledge of the truth, like the seed on hard ground (Matthew 13:1-23).  They work from within the church.  Thus, they do not deny Christianity but subtly change important parts of what we believe.  The error grows and spreads and ultimately great damage is done.   They serve Satan’s purpose for he is a deceiver and a liar (John 8:44).

If Paul saw this as such a terrible problem, we should as well.  We must know God’s Word thoroughly so we can pick out any error.  Then we must have the courage to confront it and replace it with God’s truth.  Timothy wasn’t doing this and things were falling apart.  That will be the case today as well if we allow error in our churches.

Do any of the terms Paul uses to describe false prophets apply to you?  What about someone you know?  If so, what should you do about it?


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